This just hasn't been Eddie Van Halen's year. He battled--and overcame--tongue cancer. Meanwhile, his eponymous band remains dormant while former frontmen David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar have teamed for one of the summer's biggest tours.

And now this.

The frenetic-fingered guitar virtuoso and his wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, have split after 21 years of marriage, his publicist, Liz Rosenberg, confirmed Tuesday.

The two have been living apart for about 10 months, since Bertinelli joined CBS' Touched by an Angel. The show is filmed in Salt Lake City, and Van Halen has remained in Los Angeles with their 11-year-old son, Wolfgang.

Bertinelli's publicist, Heidi Schaeffer, says the couple formally separated in October 2001.

The couple are requesting "their family's privacy be respected at this time" and refused to divulge any further details, including whether a divorce was in the works or who would retain custody of their son.

They met when Bertinelli's brother took her to a Van Halen concert, and she ran into the rocker as he tuned his guitar backstage. After a whirlwind romance, the couple tied the knot on April 11, 1981, when both were at the height of their popularity--she the cute younger daughter Barbara Cooper on One Day at a Time, he the guitar whiz behind one of rock's most popular bands.

And pretty much ever since, tabloids have been writing the postmortem on the Van Halen-Bertinelli union.

Every few years, a new rumor would surface claiming the marriage was on the rocks for any number of reasons--Bertinelli's supposed inability to get pregnant, then her 1986 miscarriage, then their long absences due to their conflicting work schedules--only to be shot down each time by the increasingly exasperated couple.

The breakup stories raged anew in 1990, after Van Halen checked into alcohol rehab, and Bertinelli told Redbook magazine that their marriage needed work. "He doesn't abuse me; he hurts himself. He's got a problem I'm not happy with, but I bring stability to his life.

"And besides, I love him. It's my weakness. Some people are addicted to food. I'm addicted to my husband.

"I can't say that we're really great friends. We don't have a helluva lot in common, but we'll always be connected like brother and sister. That helps when the romance comes and goes."

Things looked up once Van Halen made it through treatment and Bertinelli gave birth to their son in 1991. But that didn't stop the tabloids, which claimed Van Halen was on the verge of leaving Bertinelli because she hadn't managed to shed the pounds gained during pregnancy. Still, until Tuesday's announcement, the couple had persevered, managing to stay together despite the incessant rumors, the continual turmoil and turnover in the band and Van Halen's health woes, including hip-replacement surgery in 1999 and his recent bout with cancer.

The two will apparently seek solace in their work.

While never matching the popularity of her star-making, Golden Globe-winning role One Day at a Time, Bertinelli, 42, has remained a force on the small screen, becoming a go-to actress for dozens of TV movies of the week. Her boob-tube oeuvre includes Night Sins, Murder of Innocence, Silent Witness, I Was a Mail Order Bride, Young Love, First Love and The Princess and the Cabbie. She also starred in the short-lived series Sydney and, last year, joined the cast of Touched by an Angel, playing a cherub in training. She'll be back on that show in the fall.

The 47-year-old Van Halen, meanwhile, announced in May that he had "a 100 percent clean bill of health--from head to toe."

"I thank you all for all your good wishes and prayers along the way," he wrote on the band's Website, "Now it's time to really get back to the music and party on and you'll be hearing from us very soon."

We're guessing this isn't the kind of noise he was planning on making.

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